Manchester United were able to keep their winning streak going and also keep rivals Manchester City at arms length with a 2-1 win over Liverpool at Old Trafford. Robin van Persie and Nemanja Vidic by way of Patrice Evra scored to edge out the Reds.
For the first time in a long time in the recent history of these two clubs meeting, all of the talking points were on the pitch as United got off to a great start and dominated the game from the start. Sir Alex Ferguson decided upon Danny Welbeck to partner van Persie and Shinji Kagawa played in the hole behind the two strikers. United's defense, although hardly tested for the whole first half, was solid and bolstered by the inclusion of both Vidic and Rio Ferdinand. United controlled the midfield through the continued excellent display of Michael Carrick and United got their reward in the 19th minute when Evra squared a perfect ball into van Persie who calmly finished the play by slotting the ball into the back of the net.
Even though the score was just 1-0, the Red Devils looked to be in cruise control at an early stage. The threat of Luis Suarez was completely nullified by United's calm defense but also due largely to the fact that Daniel Sturridge did not start which left Suarez isolated and lacking many options. Liverpool were playing poorly and were very fortunate not to be behind by a worse margin at the halftime whistle.
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers saw his team needed an injection of pace and creativity and added Sturridge right at the start of the second half. Injury also forced Ferguson to make a change with Ashley Young coming off for Antonio Valencia. A talking point flared up in the 53rd minute when Martin Skrtel took down Welbeck and clearly denied the striker a goal scoring opportunity. Referee Howard Webb chose a yellow however and Skrtel was very lucky to still be on the pitch. Sturridge made an instant impact running at United's defense and causing some early worries but United were still in control and added a second goal 10 minutes into the half. A well-placed free kick (following the Skrtel foul) from van Persie found Evra's head who headed down and towards goal. The ball beat goalkeeper Pepe Reina and Evra turned to celebrate what would have been his fifth goal of the season. Replays showed that the ball actually took a deflection off of Vidic's head and the goal was awarded to the Serbian defender instead.
2-0 up, United looked unstoppable but the Red Devils bizarrely decided to take their foot off of the pedal and would invite Liverpool pressure for the rest of the match. Only three minutes later, a silly give away led to a Steven Gerrard shot that was taken well and forced David de Gea to make a save. As United have seen in past weeks, de Gea's shot stopping ability looks lacking as the Spanish goalkeeper parried the ball right into the path of Sturridge and the striker finished off an easy goal. Liverpool were given fresh life then and would go on to test United's defense for the rest of the match. Another possible red card situation arose when the already yellow carded Glen Johnson appeared to tackle Valencia. A free kick was given but no second yellow. United managed to hang on and win the match which preserved their seven point lead at the top of the table.
Man of the Match: Michael Carrick. Perhaps the most underrated player in a United shirt, Carrick starts every week and is brilliant every week. The England international has become one of the best defensive midfielders in the Premier League and put in another commanding performance against Liverpool.
Manchester United: David de Gea; Rafael, Patrice Evra, Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic (Chris Smalling); Michael Carrick, Ashley Young (Antonio Valencia), Tom Cleverley, Shinji Kagawa (Phil Jones); Danny Welbeck, Robin van Persie
Liverpool: Pepe Reina; Glen Johnson, Daniel Agger, Martin Skrtel, Andre Wisdom; Steve Gerrard, Lucas (Daniel Sturridge), Joe Allen (Jordan Henderson); Luis Suarez, Stewart Downing, Raheem Sterling (Fabio Borini)
Manchester United Next Match: West Ham (FA Cup) Home Wednesday January 16
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